I just can’t resist writing this! We’ve been all talking and agreeing in the comments that there were big character moments “missing” from Bahubali 2. And I was suddenly struck with inspiration and I just have to write my version of how those scenes would go.
All of these scenes come in the last half hour, after we return from the flashback. The part that feels like it is just calling out for character moments, and there wasn’t time because we had to have half an hour of battle scenes.
Tamannah and Prabhas 2, night before the big battle: Prabhas enters a tent where Tamannah is preparing her weapons and hiding her tears. She stands immediately and greets him as king. He reaches out and touches her, asking “King? What is this? Am I not your Shivu?” She pulls away and says “Shivu was a man who loved me, you are a King. A King needs a different kind of woman to love.” Prabhas half-smiles and says “I need a woman who has this” and he grabs her hand, holding its bow, signifying her warrior abilities “And a woman who has this” and he takes her other hand, interlocking their fingers, so that their matching tattoos fit together, signifying their perfect partnership, “And a woman who has this” and he raises their joined hands and brushes his thumb across her lips with a little smile to remind her of sexytimes. Tamannah can’t help smiling back and looking a little fragile and hopeful as she says “Truly?” “That is all this King will ever need.” They have a moment of staring into each other’s eyes as a little hint of their love themes plays, mixing together “Dhivara” and “Pacha Bottasi”. And then Prabhas takes a step back and says “I will need you by my side tomorrow, performing the most important task”. Tamannah looks a question. Prabhas explains, “Tomorrow it will be 26 years since the last time a daughter-in-law of the Mahishmati people performed the fire sacrifice. If my mother fulfills her destiny and completes the rite, I have no doubt we shall succeed in all our efforts. I want you to accompany her, step by step for every round, keeping the Soul of Mahishmati alive.” Tamannah looks solemn and replies “I swear I will not leave her side”. Prabhas smiles a little and says “Good! It will be a rehearsal for you.” Tamannah looks a little confused, and then kind of shy and happy as she understands what he is saying. She reaches out and takes his hand again, interlocking their tattoos, and then reaches up with her other hand to draw his head down. The camera moves outside the tent, briefly showing their silhouettes moving to lay down together.
And, poof! Tamannah has acknowledged their new positions, Prabhas has reconfirmed his love, and Tamannah’s value as his partner, his fellow warrior, and the woman he desires have been affirmed. Oh, and the theme of the 26 year ceremony has been tied together with the love story from the original film.
Prabhas 2 and Rohini (Prabhas’ adoptive mother), after the battle: Rohini is praying to the Shiva linga in the courtyard of the palace. She is standing and rocking back and her voice is giving out, her hair is loose and her face is dusty. Clearly she has been praying for a long time. Prabhas 2 comes up behind her and says “Ma! Must I stop you again from praying yourself into sickness?” Rohini turns and says “You should not call me that! That name is reserved for the noble lady who suffered for you in chains.” And she gives him a little slap with her hand to emphasize her words. Prabhas laughs and takes her hand, looking suddenly like a naughty little boy, saying “this hand has been hitting sense into my head for 25 years.” Rohini smiles and tries to pull it away, but Prabhas keeps hold, “and this hand has been feeding my mouth for 25 years. And soothing my wounds and wiping my tears. Who can it belong to but my mother?” Rohini is looking angry and also a little bit like she might cry and says “For 25 years, I had the honor to act as your mother, and these hands would have worked themselves to the bone it if would give you a moment’s ease. But that time is done now, I want you to go from here and forget, your poor mother has sacrificed 25 years of her life in chains for you, it is her time now.” Prabhas smiles and says “Tell me, why do you pray to this Lingaa, do we not have one in the village? Is that not the source of Shiva’s power?” Rohini frowns at him “I have taught you better than that! Shiva’s power is not limited to one Lingaa! It is everywhere, in the village and here at the same time.” Prabhas gently says, “and so it is with love. My mother’s love can live both in the heart of that noble woman, and in this crazy woman who has taught me all I know.” Rohini starts to cry and also smiles back, and Prabhas gently ends “And so, tomorrow, the Ranimaa will give me my crown, but before I take it, I will need my Ma to bless me.”
And, ta-da! Not only is Prabhas’ relationship with Rohini acknowledged, the connections between his free jungle childhood and his royal future are resolved. And we know that he will not turn into the same king his father could have been, because he was raised not in the fearsome royal court but in Rohini’s indulgent forest life.
Anushka and Tamannah, shortly before the coronation: Already in full dress, Anushka is sitting in a room of the palace, looking at a small swan figurine, turning it over and over in her hand. Tamannah comes into the room and says, with eyes lowered and deep respect, “Ranimaa. The King is asking for you.” Anushka doesn’t look up, but asks, “tell me. You are a woman of Kuntala. Tell me what you know of our country.” Tamannah stands tall and proud and says “Kuntala is free, and Kuntala is brave, and Kuntala will never forget her duty, or falter in the face of death”. Anushka sighs and sets down the swan figurine and says, “and is Kuntala beautiful?” Tamannah looks confused. Anushka holds out her hand and says, “come, sit with me, let me tell you of the Kuntala I knew.” Tamannah goes over and carefully kneels beside her. Anushka gently reaches down and touches her head and starts to talk “The Kuntala I knew was a place of green fields, falling water, flowers and art and laughter.” As she talks, the “Hamsa Naava” song starts up in the background, and we see slow flashes of the Kuntala of Anushka’s youth, intercut with the two women’s faces, to show that Tamannah is capturing a vision from Anushka’s words. And then she finishes by firmly setting down the swan figurine and saying “The Kuntala I know is dead and gone.” Tamannah reaches out and picks up the figurine and says “It may be dead but nothing is ever really gone.” Anushka smiles at her and says “thank you, daughter-in-law.” Tamannah looks surprised at Anushka’s acknowledgement of her position in Prabhas’ life. Anushka reaches out her hand and takes Tamannah’s and looks at the tattoo on it, turning it side to side. And then looks up and says, “I am very pleased that my son has chosen a woman of my Kuntala kingdom, a true woman who is not afraid to combine beauty and strength.” Tamannah smoothly bows her head and says “Thank you, Ranimaa.”
And abracadabra, the connections between the two women soldiers, the two women who loved these men, and the two women who are proud Kuntala warriors are made! Not only that, it is the start of a new, better, relationship between daughter-in-law and Queen mother. Anushka has made the first move, reaching out to build a connection with Tammanah outside of their shared love for Prabhas. And Tamannah has respond with respectful acknowledgement of Anushka’s primary claim. This will be a household that can contain two strong women who work together, not against each other.
Kattappa and Anushka and Prabhas 2, final scene of the film: In the grand throne room, with all the nobles gathered, Anushka calls out from the regents throne (with Prabhas sitting in the central throne and Tamannah in the lower one) “What business is before the court?” Kattappa steps forward and says “A judgement, my Queen.” “Who is to be judged?” “Myself, my Queen. For the killing of our noble king, these 25 years ago.” Murmurs and horror go through the audience! Anushka waves a hand and orders “Quiet!” The crowd immediately falls silent. She turns back to Kattappa and says, “Are you ready for your judgement?” Kattappa pulls off his helmet, and bows his head and holds out his sword balanced on two hands. Clearly expecting an execution. “I am ready”. “Then I judge you to spend 25 years in servitude, a life filled with daily humiliations and pain. I judge you to desire death, but be forbidden even that as it would be to break a bond with your kinsman who have gone before and for whose sake you must keep your word. I judge you to risk your life to save the son of that man you have killed, not once, but many times. I judge you to lead a brave band of men who have finally placed that son on the throne where he belongs. I judge you to all these punishments. Now, tell me,” (and Anushka raises her voice and looks out on the crowd), “does anyone here disagree with my judgement?” The room is silent. Until Prabhas speaks up, “I would add one thing, respected Ranimaa.” Anushka turns to him, “tell me, my King.” Prabhas says “I would add that, for all his acts, he has earned release from this life”. Kattappa keeps his head bowed. Prabhas continues, “for 50 years, you have served Mahishmati, and now that time is over”. Kattappa keeps his head down, with a look of acceptance. Prabhas stands and walks down the steps from the throne and takes the sword from Kattappa. He raises it and brings it down on Kattappa’s neck. But stops at the last instant and raises it again. Kattappa looks up in surprise. And Prabhas smiles at him as the iron ring that signified his servitude slips from around his neck, the sword having been used to split it. Prabhas says, “You are free, Grandfather. You have earned the salvation of yourself and all your ancestors by your faithfulness, and now your servitude is finished. Mahishmati will ask no more of you.” Kattappa starts to tear up a little. Prabhas opens his arms and says, “And now, not as your master or your king, but I am asking as your son, Grandfather, will you embrace me one more time?” Kattappa reaches out and embraces Prabhas who holds him tightly in return. The camera pulls back to show Anushka smiling from her thrown, Tamanna from hers, and then the camera keeps pulling back, showing the happy crowd inside and out.
(Let’s replace this image with a better one)
And, yay! We end the film with forgiveness and reconciliation. Plus, we get to see how this new Mahishmati will function. With judgements based on “Dharma”, not just law. And with respect between mother and son, Anushka being asked to give the initial judgement, but acceding to Prabhas’ greater power when he wishes to add to it. Oh, and with a real resolution for poor Kattappa, the heart of the film.